November for me is a tough month. My mother died on the 8thof November. I was four months pregnant. The day after she passed away from a brutal and cruel death from cancer I lost our baby. It was incredibly difficult and painful, and it took a long time to heal. November still brings back the echoes of the early painful days of grief and loss. However I had the incredible support of my husband and children, and friends and family. My losses were acknowledged and my need for time to recover was respected.
As part of the month of November last week my GAA club, Naomh Eoin, held a Mass to remember club members who had died this year and included members’ close relatives who had passed away. My father in law who passed away in February was remembered as part of a beautiful, simple and reflective mass. The ceremony included acknowledgment and connection to the most important parts of us. Our culture, our language, our teams, our volunteers, our many generations, our place in our country and community and our place with in the GAA family. That the club included members’ close family who had died was an important acknowledgement of connection and what is required for personal recovery. It was honestly uplifting. A real testimony to the organisers.
We left Naomh Eoin and went to a fundraiser for a new memorial garden in North Belfast for all those who lost their lives through conflict in Ardoyne, the Bone and Ligoneil. It was a great success with many families, public representatives, local activists and supporters all part of something positive following the horror of conflict bereavement.
The inclusive and accepting approach of the organisers made this event equally uplifting. Minister Caral Ní Chuilín spoke powerfully about why a quiet space of inclusive reflection is needed for families. The simple need for a space away from the day to day, to sit or walk and remember and reflect. She also spoke about the universal need for truth and fight to protect the universal right to truth.
Nothing makes me angrier than any position which will deny to those who grieve their pain and loss. Nothing is crueler than the position that there is a pecking order of grief and that some families’ experience is less worthy of acknowledgement or acceptance. I have been in many rooms where those who have lost absolutely nothing in our conflict, not as much as a night’s sleep, will seek to denigrate the rights and experience of those who have lost their loved ones, especially the families of IRA volunteers. It always leaves me reeling when other victims seek to do it. I don’t understand how anyone who has experienced the trauma and grief of loss will demean and deny other victims’ experience. But as we see and hear regularly they do.
Connection, remembrance, reflection and acceptance are essential aids to recovery. When our GAA clubs, our local community and our political representatives step forward and contribute to their creation we all benefit.